Sunday, June 3, 2012
Nashville Farmers’ Market
900 Rosa Parks Blvd.
It’s back to basics at Bella Nashville. The new pizzeria in the Nashville Farmers’ Market is keeping things simple and putting all their attention to quality. It’s a mere wisp of a menu and the pies themselves are blissfully simple. However, it all adds up to good, honest food. Bella Nashville is an excellent addition to the Market House.
Musicians and restaurant veterans Emma Berkey and Dave Cuomo have a wood fired oven roaring away in the space that used to house Swett's. Those pizzas come out lightning fast (about four minutes). The 900 degree heat provides a nice light char in spots and a thin crust that is equal parts crispy and chewy. Where the pizza goes from there really depends on your order. The Bella folks are not afraid to shake things up and those specials have been quite inventive. One day brings smoked pork, asparagus and peaches- no cheese and no tomato sauce – just a generous drizzle of olive oil. This lets the crust do the talking and allows the ingredients to shine. Peaches and pulled pork? Who knew they would pair so well? Another day might bring duck and turnip greens with a balsamic reduction.
The house made mozzarella on the Margherita makes it a standout. The tomato sauce is zippy and bright. The wonderful scent of fresh basil hits your nose before you even take a bite. This pizza is heaven on a plate. Meat features Benton’s country ham and you’ll find truffle oil a real treat on the Marinara pie. Another must try is the Hummus pizza, which sounds a bit odd at first, until you consider that pita bread and pizza dough are closely related. The toasted nuts, mint, chili oil and zatar make the Hummus another standout.
Alright, did you notice a trend? Just five pizzas on the menu and we just called each one a standout, which I suppose doesn’t make any sense. They’re all worthy of standout status, though, and that’s what makes Bella Nashville so much fun. You won’t have many options, but the ones you have will probably be great.
Veggie Eater: The standard menu has a few veggie friendly pizzas: Margherita, Marinara, and Hummus, in addition to weekly specials. Ingredients are carefully chosen and assembled, which shines in the final product. Herbs are supplied by friends and devotees and make appearances in pizza, tea and marinara. Mozz is homemade daily, as is the fresh sourdough pizza dough. They sell fresh loaves of bread made from that sourdough starter, which is available for nibbling as you wait for your ‘za. Perhaps most remarkable is how little you actually have to wait for your meal; given the extremely high heat of the pizza oven, it takes only a few minutes to cook and deliver the pizza to you. The oven yields a fluffy, slightly charred crust with several different textures, which are then juxtaposed with the toppings. The marinara sauce is simply divine; light and sprightly. The hummus pizza is a surprising treat, with zatar and fresh mint adding a bit of zestiness to the creamy hummus. The weekly seasonal specials sport ingredients from the multitude of purveyors at the Farmer’s Market, so one visit had a peach pizza special (both meat and veggie versions). The veggie version featured fresh peach slices atop fontina with roasted veggies. Inventive and light. The drinks are also given top billing, with homemade sodas in addition to black and herbal tea, often sporting more fresh herbs. Customers, owners, and staff all seem to be having fun sharing this food experience.
Meat Eater: Watch as they pour an orange soda: they mix fresh squeezed juice and sugar soda on the spot for a delightfully light drink. The Iced Yerba Mate tea is also quite good. You can buy loaves of the nicely-sour bread in white or whole wheat desem.
If all of this sounds fussy, it’s not. They have a few seats at the counter and you can chat with the laid back staff. Pizzas run about $8 or $9 each for the 9 inch size. That’s a fast, filling and fun lunch- just what the Farmers’ Market crowd is looking for.
We paid $30 for two with tip and drinks on one visit and $25 on another visit.